TOLEDO, Ohio — It took five years to get to this point but the Indy Fuel made their debut in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Taking on the Toledo Walleye at the Huntington Center Indy looked to win their first Kelly Cup Playoff matchup. The Walleye controlled the majority of the game with their playoff experienced roster but the resilient Fuel team didn’t ever give up in their first ever playoff game.
The first period started out as about as well as it could have for the Walleye. Toledo came out strong, controlling the majority of play and forcing an inexperienced Fuel team to make mistakes in their defensive zone. It only took nine minutes for Toledo to put the puck in the back of the Indy net.
A Toledo 3-on-2 led to a backdoor pass to Christian Hilbrich led to a 1-0 lead for the Walleye. Indy’s Matt Rupert would tie the game a few minutes later, picking up a loose puck in front of the net and beating Pat Nagle through the five-hole. Again, the Walleye controlled the majority of play and this 3-on-2 goal was just the start of a Walleye offensive barrage. Heading into the locker room, Toledo led shots 18-12.
The second period was a physical one, both teams crashing the net and finishing their checks throughout the second stanza. Five minutes in, a broken play led to a puck coming to Hilbrich. The Walleye forward tucked the puck behind Etienne Marcoux.
The third period was the most exciting period of the night. Toledo’s Kyle Bonis got the scoring started early in the third but the resiliency of this seasons Indy Fuel showed up quickly. Josh Shalla was fed a pass by Ryan Rupert, allowing him to beat Nagle to cut the lead to 3-2. It would take a late shot from the point by Brandon Anselmini to tie the game and send it to overtime, the second of the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Both teams would earn their chances through the first overtime but neither goaltender would budge, causing the game to head to a second overtime.
It didn’t take long for the game-winning goal to be scored by none other than former Indy Fuel goal scorer, Tyler Barnes. A turnover during an Indy offensive zone entrance led to a 3-on-2 the other way. Bonis fed Barnes, who beat Marcoux over the shoulder for the game-winner.
Both teams played a very physical game and that will only continue throughout the series. There is little doubt that this series can absolutely go the distance but the experience of Toledo could cause it to stay short. If Indy wants this series to go six or seven games they’ll have to steal a game on the road.
With Friday’s win, Toledo leads the seven-game series 1-0. Game two is Sunday at 5:15pm at the Huntington Center.